The day my son was diagnosed with autism was devastating. There were days, weeks, and even months of uncertainty and grief. It was probably one of the loneliest times of my life. At the time, I couldn’t see beyond the doom and gloom of autism. Or rather, what I thought autism was.
But that was almost eight years ago. Since then, we’ve both come a long way.
Of course, it’s true that raising a child with autism isn’t easy. But while I still have moments of sadness, I am no longer consumed by it.
When people ask me what it’s like raising a kid with autism, I struggle to put it into words. I only have one child; so autism parenting is the only way of life I know. But I can say this with absolute certainty: There is nothing to feel sorry for. We’ve embraced the joy in our life; I just wish someone could’ve told me as much the day Norrin was diagnosed.
If you’re new autism, here’s what you have to look forward to:
- Your love for your child will not change. In fact, it will become even stronger.
- Your best moments of communication will happen when you least expect them.
- He will watch the same YouTube video 1,000 times in a row and still laugh like it’s the very first time.
- You will develop patience in epic proportions.
- He might just amaze you with what he can do — from drawing cartoons to scripting entire books.
- Ask him what he did at school and you’ll get an “I don’t know.”
- Eating chicken nuggets and fries for dinner never gets old.
- You will try to change the brand of chicken nuggets and fries thinking he won’t know the difference.
- He will totally know the difference.
- He’ll ask the same question over and over again …
- … and you’ll answer that same question each time he asks.
- Trains. Specifically Thomas the Train.
- The iPad will be his lifeline.
- You will learn this the hard way the day it’s not fully charged.
- He’ll suddenly remember something from years before and talk about it like it just happened.
- Some kids will think he’s weird.
- But you’ll teach him to embrace the things that make him different.
- Autism can make or break your marriage.
- The same goes for friendships.
- You will find strength and understanding in your spouse.
- And you will find a tribe of people who will get it.
- You will become a fierce advocate who doesn’t take no for an answer. (Olivia Pope has nothing on you.)
- You will become fluent in acronyms.
- And quote special education law like a boss.
- You will say things like, “Where are your pants?” more times than you’d care to admit.
- You will become the go-to autism resource among your friends and family.
- You’ll realize he’s not much different than a “typical” kid …
- … because he sure eats like one …
- … and grows like one.
- You will hear parents complain about their “typical” kids and consider yourself lucky you don’t have to worry about tween/teen drama.
- Sometimes, he’ll have an attitude or even talk back.
- And you’ll be secretly pleased with his expression of age-appropriate behavior.
- He will be oblivious to current events.
- And you will be grateful autism maintains his innocence.
- He’ll willingly want to hold your hand in public.
- He will tell always tell you the truth.
- (Even when he’s done something wrong.)
- He will use his words (loudly) at the most inappropriate times.
- And you will most likely have to hold back your laughter.
- His therapists will become like family.
- You will celebrate every moment and milestone, knowing the effort it took to achieve it.
- He will want more independence …
- … and you’ll want to give it to him, even though it scares the crap out of you.
- His progress will astound you.
- And you’ll be hopeful, knowing there is still so much progress left for him to achieve.